Eduard Bernstein's Revisionist Critique of Marxist Theory and Practice
Eduard Bernstein formulated the theoretical premises expressing the movement toward revisionist practice, which was taking place in European socialist parties during the late 19th century. Bernstein was a member of the German Social Democratic party which was a particularly strong and important member of the Second International conference. During that time, a split in the socialist movement became evident, including within the German Social Democratic party. One stream continued to adhere to the principles of orthodox Marxist theory, while the other was revisionist--prepared to accept and design revisions of Marxism, drawing upon other sources of socialist theory.
Bernstein himself moved gradually from taking an orthodox Marxist stance to a revisionist one, partially due to a number of outside influences. In addition, he began by questioning whether the empirical, historical conditions of his era corresponded any longer with the traditional Marxist approach. Bernstein did not see economic trends proceeding in the same manner as the orthodox Marxists, did not foresee any necessary breakdown of capitalism, or any need for revolutionary means to obtain the goal of a socialist society. He concludes by criticizing a number of bases of Marxist theory particuIarIy the over-reIiance on a Hegelian teleoIogy, which produces misleading results. Bernstein criticized the retention of Marxist theory therefore, as an unquestionable dogma, holding rather that it should be utilized as a useful tool for historical and sociological analysts, and revised according to changes in social relations.